Re: culture as gene-flow regulator: the arunta

Len Piotrowski (
Thu, 26 Sep 1996 21:30:48 GMT

In article <52emnp$> (Gerold Firl) writes:

>[This is getting rediculously tiresome and repetitive]

>In article <>, (Len Piotrowski) writes:

>|> In article <52c1hs$> (Gerold Firl) writes:

>|> >Service lists the sources he used to compile his ethnographic survey; I
>|> >got the impression that spencer and gillen were the primaries. You seem
>|> >to be claiming that service is wrong when he says that "sexual licence"
>|> >was "encouraged" at the large gatherings of the arunta; on what basis
>|> >do you make this claim?

>|> I answered this in a previous post. Perhaps you've forgotten?

>Not a chance. If I had ever seen a post from you documenting why your
>word should be taken in preference to standard anthropological
>references, I wouldn't forget it.

>As I mentioned earlier, my newsreader dropped some posts while I was
>out of the office, so maybe I missed the post in question.

How unfortunate! Let me re-post an earlier response for your sake, Firl:

"Claims by the original ethnographic authors such as "sexual licence," and
unknown paternity have been challenged by later scholars, such as
Levi-Strauss. The highly formalized, proscribed moral and ethical behavior of
aborigines towards one another belie any such free, and easy relationship
amongst persons not belonging to the local group."

From: (Len Piotrowski)
Newsgroups: sci.anthropology
Subject: Re: culture as gene-flow regulator: the arunta [LONG]
Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 19:43:05 GMT
Organization: The Ohio State University
Lines: 297
Distribution: world
Message-ID: <>
References: <51muh4$> <> <51pkso$>

>|> >You say that promiscuous sexual activity "has
>|> >never been documented" for the arunta "or any other aboriginal group",
>|> >and yet spencer and gillen traveled among the arunta in the 19th
>|> >century, and according to them that is exactly what happened.

>|> Prove it!

>Wonderful - lenny, you're a peach. What a great example of the warm and
>fuzzy world of subjective postmodernism, or post-rationalism, whatever
>you want to call it. If facts disagree with your dogma, no problem. If
>wishes were horses, postmodernists would ride.

I'm waiting for your "facts" Firl.

>|> >Forgive me if I don't place too much credibility in your
>|> >pronouncements; I'd like to see some evidence. You've made so many
>|> >bogus claims that your presumption of authority in the face of standard
>|> >anthropological sources is less than convincing.

>|> And so Firl's pissing match begins.

>sorry, lenny, I'm afraid you're on your own. I'll trust you to man the
>pissoir without any help from me. Just keep an eye on the prevailing winds.

Let me know when those winds are in your face, Firl. : )

>|> He likes making predictions without
>|> evidence, cries when he's asked to produce evidence of his predictions, and
>|> demands that those who ask for evidence of his predictions show him evidence
>|> that he needs to show evidence. Boggles!

>You still don't seem to understand what a prediction is. I've tried
>explaining this to you before. Predictions extend the theory to places
>where there is no evidence - yet. It's much easier to concoct a theory
>explaining known fact than to create one which can make accurate
>predictions. Prediction is key to falsifiability. If my prediction
>regarding variations in sexual positions at home vs. abroad for the
>arunta could be verified, then that would be strong support for the
>hypothesis that arunta customs reflect gene-flow enhancement

Let me quote you something from this months issue of "American Scientist:"

"According to falsificationists, we test a hypothesis by deducing from it a
testable prediction. If this prediction turns out to be false, the hypothesis
from which it is deduced is said to be falsified and must be rejected."

"Conduct, Misconduct and the Structure of Science," by J. Woodward and David
Goodstein, page 482.

Here's another interesting passage:

"... bad scientific behavior consists in refusing to announce in advance what
sorts of evidence would lead one to give up an hypothesis, in ignoring or
discarding evidence contrary to one's hypothesis or in introducing ad hoc,
content-decreasing modifications in one's theories in order to protect them
against refutation. Good scientific method consists in putting forward highly
falsifiable hypotheses, specifying in advance what sorts of evidence would
falsify these hypotheses, testing the hypotheses at exactly those points at
which they seem most likely to break down and then giving them up should such
evidence be observed. "

ibid, page 483.

How do you think your "prediction" fairs against these rules of conduct?

>You had also challenged the data which I had used to develop the
>hypothesis, claiming that the description of arunta society presented
>by elman service is erroneous.

Scientific misconduct under the above rules.

>I would still like to see the basis for
>your claim; given your track record for disengenious pronouncements of
>totally groundless assertions, your credibility is pretty low.

You've been provided with the objections, to repeat them is a waste of time,
you ignore them at the risk of your own scientific credibility. I could
care less how you conduct the rest of your "scientific" career at this point.

>|> Your hypothesis fails because no one can verify it's conditions and falsified
>|> by contradictory anthropological evidence.

>I'm not sure what you mean by "verify its' conditions"; what

The conditions of your model/hypothesis are unverifiable.

> And what is the contradictory evidence?

It's been detailed in previous posts, having to do with aboriginal social

>Why don't you just
>present it?

I have, repeatedly, yet you've ignored and discarded it because it
contradicts your hypothesis.

>If you've been holding your evidence in reserve for an
>opportune moment, now seems like a good time to whip it out.


>|> >The reason that the early sources such as
>|> >spencer and gillen are so valuable is because they saw the arunta while
>|> >the aboriginal lifestyle was still fairly pristine.

>|> Contradicted by ethongraphic fact!

>Tell me more. Which facts? Gathered when? Published where?

If you haven't read it yet, take it up in Deja News.

>|> >And if you're talking about pre-contact
>|> >arunta culture, you'd better have some solid reasons for dismissing the
>|> >testimony of the eyewitness observers.

>|> They simply couldn't comprehend what they perceived in the Other except in
>|> terms of the familiar.

>What was it that they couldn't comprehend? And how would you interpret
>it, given your insight?

... the meaning behind Spencer and Gillen's observations.

>You have objected to the fact that a subincised penis does not
>ejaculate inside the vagina. I still don't know why you have a problem
>accepting it, but that's how it was described to me.

You accept every notion presented to you without objection?

> What this means is
>that semen either dribbles down the groove cut along the underside of
>the shaft (incidentally, resulting in more of a flatiron than a cylindar)
>in the case of male-superior positions, or else running onto the ground
>in the case of female superior positions.

Hogwash! You've been challenged on this before. There is no evidence the
urethra is cut!

>In the case of male-superior
>positions, semen can still enter the vagina; that's why subincision can
>function as a birth-control system.

How, by "dribbling?"

>You have also objected to the statement that "sexual license" was
>encouraged at the large ritual gatherings. Can you explain how spencer
>and gillen were unable to comprehend "the Other" in this case?

If Spencer and Gillen were to have observed couplings in these situations, how
do they know it represented "sexual license" versus some other proscribed
aboriginal social relationship? No other ethnographer verifies this conclusion!

>Is this
>really so hard to understand?

Not for you, since without it your hypothesis has no "social strategy" to
rely on. On this point alone, "sexual license" isn't even a "social

>Are you suggesting that what they took to
>be promiscuous sex was actually something else?

I don't know what they observed to cause them to come to this conclusion.
Neither does anyone else.

>If so, just what *were*
>they doing?

My prediction: they were classificatory spouses.

>Maybe my comprehension of "the Other" is just too limited,
>but I can't imagine what all those couples were doing if they weren't
>doing what I thought they were doing.

All what couples? You have no idea if there was one or more couples, at one or
more gatherings, participating in any clearly unambiguous acts.

>Good thing we have you here to
>straighten things out; just what *was* going on, lenny?

I can only make reasoned speculations. You should be applying the same
speculative reasoning to your own model and it's specific prediction,
especially as it reflects upon your conduct of science.



"If you can't remember what mnemonic means, you've got a problem."
- perlstyle